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20 quick and easy tips that will improve your productions

20 quick and easy tips that will improve your productions

I recently started a new series called “Quick tips” on the Audio Hertz Instagram account and decided it would be a good idea to compile them all together and put them up as a single post.

Here are my first 20 quick and easy tips that are guaranteed to improve your productions.

Quick tip 1

Studio monitors should be the last thing turned on and the first thing turned off.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bho_zDHAqmX/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 2

Read the damn manual!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BhrohY9ALkT/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 3

The zero point is where the positive and negative side of a wave meet. By cutting there you can avoid clicks and pops in your audio, although it never hurts to add a short crossfade.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiAWCCRAch7/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 4

To get a larger sounding floor tom, place foam pads under the feet so you don’t lose any of the low resonances through the floor.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiKW4X0AOvX/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 5

Trying to get the vocals to pop? Duplicate the lead vocal track, add distortion, a sh*t ton of compression, boost EQ in the 1-5kHz range and automate the new track back in during the parts you need the vocal to cut through more.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiMq08oASMp/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 6

Don’t be afraid to add processing to your effects returns.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiPn8NlAZ3H/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 7

Your goal when mixing shouldn’t be to make it sound the best, your goal should be to make it feel the best.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiSUMiIAgrR/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 8

Automate the tempo of your track to go up a few BPM in the chorus. It adds excitement and life, just like when real musicians play together.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiUwxptAgxg/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 9

Don’t be afraid of using an extremely wide Q setting on an equalizer. Wider boosts at smaller increments tend to sound less intrusive and more musical.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Biakwa4AVkw/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 10

The best engineers know when to tweak a sound and when to leave it alone. Listen before you decide to add EQ or compression.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bic0VFnAtq4/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 11

Remember to mix at lower volumes! Everything sounds better when it’s louder so make sure your track still retains the balance and punch at lower volumes. I also love adjusting compressors at low volumes, it makes it easier to hear what it’s really doing to the transient.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BifGsvAAFBB/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 12

After mixing for a long time try flipping the left and right to listen from a new perspective.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bim6x76gMHW/?taken-by=audio_hertz

 

Quick tip 13

Having trouble balancing the low end? Try cutting 60-80 Hz in the bass and boosting 60-80 Hz in the kick.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiztAelATvt/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 14

Try using a transient designer on your drum reverb return. Turning up the attack should yield a tighter and punchier sound.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bi2WzoBl4ze/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 15

Your groove is driven by the interplay between your kick, snare, hi-hat, and bass. If your rhythm section doesn’t groove, ain’t nobody gonna move.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bi4z8tNA1cZ/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 16

Commit to a sound, save CPU power and bounce your virtual instruments to audio. Don’t get stuck in the habit of leaving yourself a ton of decisions to make while mixing.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bi7ek2nAigF/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 17

Try turning off tempo-sync on your time based effects. Subtle timing discrepancies are a cool way to loosen up the groove and give a more human feel to your programmed tracks.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BjF1CAzgxoS/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 18

You don’t always have to mix sounds loud enough to hear them. Sometimes an instrument or effects return only needs to be felt and not heard.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BjKy2GFADvB/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 19

Use a room mic on an electric guitar and blend it in with the amp’s microphone to add space, depth, and attack to your guitar tracks.

*I need to make a correction on this one. If you’re looking for more attack you can try adding a close mic on the guitarist picking hand, this also works well for bass guitar.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BjQo0QOgQAX/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Quick tip 20

Organize your plugins! Just about every DAW these days will allow you to rearrange the way your plugins are laid out.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BjVUy92AyDm/?taken-by=audio_hertz

Related articles:
20 quick and easy tips that will improve your productions (part 2)
5 mixing mistakes that I used to make… and how to avoid them
[Even more] Things I wish I learned sooner about audio engineering
Things I wish I learned sooner about audio engineering

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What the f*ck is audio clipping?

What the f*ck is audio clipping?

I’ve been interested in learning more about audio clipping for quite some time, but it wasn’t until recently that I was able to get my hands on a dedicated clipper plugin. I remember years ago hearing about mastering engineers clipping their converters for an extra 1-2 dB of gain. That made complete sense, but I’d never found a reason that this would be applicable in any of my productions. It wasn’t until recently when clippers became a common term thrown around message boards and Facebook groups that I took more interest and decided to do some research and experimenting for myself.

We’ve all heard of clipping. From the very beginning of learning to record, we are taught to avoid clipping at all costs. Many would think it’s synonymous with digital distortion and is in every way, shape, and form, a negative artifact of digital audio. But they would be wrong. Not all clipping is a bad thing. Clipping that sounds bad is bad; clipping that sounds good and helps us achieve louder volume levels is good.

The highest possible point before the audio starts to distort inside your DAW is 0 dBFS. If you push a source past this threshold, it will start to shave off the top of your waveform, so it looks more like a square wave than a standard round sine wave. Your waveform is effectively clipped.

There are two different types, hard clipping, and soft clipping.

Hard clipping

If you look at a sine wave on an oscilloscope and raise the level into a clipper, the round sine wave gets squared off at the top effectively shaving off the rounded edge of the waveform.

Sine Wave
Sine Wave
audio_hard_clipped
Clipped Sine Wave

Hard clipping distorts the sound while adding additional harmonics to the original source.This can sound cool on its own as just an effect. But it can also be particularly useful when used on sub frequency instruments, such as the ever popular 808 kick drum. These additional harmonics will make the sub frequencies more audible on smaller speakers.

Another common use of hard clipping is to make things louder. Many engineers will put one at the end of their mastering chain after the limiter. Here you can use a clipper to get a few extra dB of gain, similar to the mastering engineers I’d heard about that purposely clip their converters.

Soft clipping

Unlike hard clipping where waves are completely squared off, with soft clipping the waves are more rounded to create a smooth transition between the clipped and unclipped sections of the waveform. This makes for a more pleasing sounding distortion that isn’t as harsh as hard clipping. Analog gear and magnetic tape does this naturally when transformers and circuits are overdriven. Many compressors and limiters also have soft clipping built in as a standard feature.

Soft Clipped Sine Wave
Soft Clipped Sine Wave


Clipper Plugins

Usually when levels are pushed they become squared off, a clipper plugin uses an algorithm that knows when there is an overage and rather than completely chop off the waveform, it helps shape it. A good clipper plugin keeps the transient impact while still adding harmonic content and volume.

You can also use them to “clip” or shave off the top peaks of your waveform so you can tame transients, add harmonic content, and effectively achieve a higher perceived loudness. Seems simple enough however, there’s an art to using one as too much will leave you with dull transient-less material.

Related articles:
What the f*ck is Linear Phase EQ?
What the f*ck is 32 bit floating?
[Even more] Things I wish I learned sooner about audio engineering

The “your mixes sound bad in the car” phenomenon